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History of Homeopathy in Australia: A Brief History of Homœopathy in Tasmania

Barbara Armstrong presents a history of homeopathy in Tasmania, describing the resistance homeopaths met from the medical establishment.

For further details about the information listed below, plus the history of homœopathy in the rest of Australia see: www.historyofhomeopathy.com.au

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1830 – First mention of homœopathy

The first time homœopathy was mentioned in Tasmanian newspapers was in 1830, reprinted from an article which had appeared in the Edinburgh Review about this ‘new system of cure’.

In 1846, in the whole of Tasmania there were only 67 registered medical practitioners (18 in Hobart and 11 in Launceston), and 6 registered chemists (3 in Hobart and 3 in Launceston). No-one was recorded as prescribing or dispensing homœopathic medicines.

We will never know the name of the first person to bring homœopathy to Tasmania. It may have been any one of the many thousands of men and women who emigrated from ‘the old country’. In preparation for life in a pioneering country, where there would be little if any access to qualified medical practitioners, some of them would have brought with them their homœopathic medicine chests and instructions for their use in emergency situations.

 

1848 – First homœopathic pharmacy

By this time homœopathy was sufficiently well-known and used in the Hobart Town community that Mr Frederick C. Atkinson believed that he could succeed with a pharmacy specifically aimed at supporters and users of homœopathic treatment. He opened The Homœopathic Establishment in Macquarie Street, which, according to my research to-date, was Australia’s first specialist homœopathic pharmacy as advertised in newspapers of the time. Mr Atkinson also advertised that he provided consultations; therefore it would appear that he was Tasmania’s first known lay homœopath. However, the pharmacy was only advertised for about 6 months, and Mr. Atkinson disappeared from Tasmania’s public records.

 

1866 – Two homœopaths & one homœopathic chemist

This year saw the beginnings of a more stable and public presence of homœopathy, as well as the beginnings of a strong push-back by the conventional medical profession.

Dr Ebenezer Atherton, age 25, arrived in Hobart. He was the first known qualified homœopath and registered medical practitioner to practise full-time in Tasmania. As such, he did much to promote and defend homœopathy in the newspapers and later via the publication called Notes on Homœopathy. He remained in Tasmania until 1873 when he moved to New South Wales.

Andrew John Baden Jenner arrived in Tasmania, just one month after Dr Atherton. He had moved from Queensland, initially practising in Hobart, then Launceston, then Devonport. He became famous in Tasmania for giving lectures on homœopathy as well as other topics such as ‘fashion’. Nearly three hundred people attended his Launceston lecture on homœopathy, which was subsequently published in full as a pamphlet. This pamphlet and his lectures brought him to the attention of the medical profession. Jenner stated that he had qualifications from the University College of London, but he did not have formal medical qualifications which would make him eligible to become registered as a medical practitioner. Having received a diploma from an American college via mail, he applied for registration in Tasmania, but was refused. Twice more he was charged with having practised medicine without being registered and was fined. Perhaps realising that the local doctors would never permit him to establish a successful practice, he returned to England around 1870. Eventually he moved to America where his qualifications were accepted.

Edward Ash, an established chemist in Hobart, commenced advertising the sale of homœopathic medicines and books. His pharmacy became known as ‘Ash, Homœopathic Chemists’ and continued to operate through three generations of the Ash family, into the 1900s. His grandson, Percy, became a member of the Board and Trustee of the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital.

Early 1870s – More outlets for sales of homœopathics, and a new publication

Messrs Walch & Sons, stationers in Hobart, advertised regularly that they were importers of homœopathic medicines for the public. Andrew P. Miller, Hobart chemist, advertised that he had homœopathic medicines for sale.

The first monthly edition of Notes on Homœopathy was published in Hobart. Edited by supporter E.C. Nowell, with contributions from Dr Atherton, it ran for 12 editions.

In the Notes on Homœopathy a person from Devonport stated that there was ‘a good opening for a homœopathic medical practitioner in the neighborhood as they have no medical man within 40 miles’. Presumably referring to A.J.B. Jenner, the writer stated that their homœopathic medical practitioner had been ‘driven away by persecution, but not before he had relieved many persons who had been deemed incurable’. ‘I may also add that a great many of the residents are practical homœopaths in their families.’

 

1873 – New homœopath in Hobart

Dr Harry Benjafield, age 28, arrived in Hobart and took over Dr Atherton’s popular practice. He was to have a significant influence on the spread of homœopathy throughout Tasmania. He also produced the smallpox vaccine from calf lymph node, which he exported throughout Australia.

 

1878 – New homœopathic pharmacy in Hobart & a new publication

There has been some confusion about the background history to what eventually became known as Gould’s Homœopathic Pharmacy. My extensive examination of contemporary reports reveals that the instigator and owner of the business was Dr Benjafield as an extension to his medical practice which he conducted on the same premises. He hired managers to run the day-to-day activities of the Pharmacy.

Shortly after it opened, The Homœopathic Pharmacy produced and published a booklet: “What is Homœopathy? with simple directions for the treatment of common complaints; by an M.B.” It was provided free-of-charge upon request.

H.T. Gould became the manager and the dispensing chemist of The Homœopathic Pharmacy after his arrival in Hobart in 1880, two years after the Pharmacy was established.

 

1870 – 1880 – Launceston outlets for sale of homœopathic medicines

While most commercial activities to date had focused on Hobart to the south, attention also started to concentrate on providing homœopathic medicines to the north, in Launceston. Two existing pharmacies started advertising the sale of homœopathic medicines.

 

1882 – Petition to establish a homœopathic ward in the Hobart General Hospital

Dr Benjafield, Mr Gould and others agitated to obtain a homœopathic ward in Hobart’s General Hospital. The issue was raised at the hospital board meeting, but the proposal was rejected as being unworkable.

 

1883 – Two new homœopathic pharmacies; a new homœopath in Launceston; a new publication

There has been some confusion about the background history of The Homœopathic Pharmacy in Launceston, which later became known as F.S. Browne’s Homœopathic Pharmacy. Credit for the formation of the Pharmacy is usually given to F. Styant Browne. However, my extensive examination of contemporary reports reveals that the instigator and owner of the business was Dr Benjafield, as a branch of The Homœopathic Pharmacy in Hobart. Mr Styant Browne, who had arrived in Tasmania in 1882, was hired as the manager to run the day-to-day activities of the Pharmacy. Mr Styant Browne purchased the Pharmacy in 1885.

As part of the opening of the Pharmacy, it was announced that a new homœopathic doctor, Dr Samuel Brown, had arrived in Launceston. Dr Brown provided consultations from the premises, which he continued to do until he left Tasmania and moved to Queensland in 1885. The following year he was replaced by Dr William Matthew Gutteridge.

A small brochure called “The Medical Telephone” was produced by the Hobart Homœopathic Pharmacy. It contained directions for the treatment of common diseases, wounds, fractures, and directions and recommendations for the use of homœopathic medicines. It was distributed via both the Hobart and Launceston pharmacies. Later, in 1895, Gould’s Pharmacy advertised that the brochure was available free-of-charge and that upward of 20,000 copies had already been circulated since it was first produced.

 

1897 – Battle for a hospital presence in Launceston; Northern Homœopathic League formed; homœopathics available on the West Coast

In May 1897 the women of Launceston announced that they wanted to establish a women’s hospital as a memorial to Queen Victoria. Supporters of homœopathy (among others) worked hard, subscribing liberally to the project.

Dr Gutteridge, the only qualified homœopath in Launceston, was asked to act as one of the honorary medical officers on the staff of the hospital. However, the other honorary medical officers, who were allopaths, objected to his appointment; they formed a Launceston sub-branch of the British Medical Association. The allopathic staff of the hospital stated that it would be impossible for them to work with Dr Gutteridge as their rules prevented them from consulting with a homœopath. Intended as a threat to the hospital committee to force them to sack Dr Gutteridge, this caused a furore throughout the north of Tasmania, and especially those subscribers who had believed that they would be able to receive homœopathic treatment at the hospital. In the end, the committee (without the support of their subscribers) rescinded the resolution to establish a homœopathic ward at the hospital, also withdrawing their offer of a medical position to Dr Gutteridge.

As a direct result of the above actions, on October 21, 1897, a meeting of supporters of homœopathy was held in Launceston, where they decided to form the Northern Tasmanian Homœopathic League. The meeting also proposed establishing a homœopathic hospital as soon as possible.

Homœopathic medicines were advertised as being available in mining towns on the West Coast of Tasmania.

 

1898 – Unity for homœopathy; a homœopathic journal

Allopaths in Hobart formed a sub-branch of the British Medical Association, adopting the standard rules that they would not consult with homœopaths or assist them in providing surgery or anaesthetics. As a result of this boycott, the supporters of homœopathy in Hobart formed the Southern Tasmanian Homœopathic League.

Shortly thereafter north and south joined together to form the Tasmanian Homœopathic Association.

At the same time as the amalgamation, The Tasmanian Homœopathic Journal commenced publication, with monthly editions being produced from June 1898 to August 1901.

 

1899 – Hobart Homœopathic Hospital opened

The Hobart Homœopathic Hospital was opened by the Premier.

 

1900 – Launceston Homœopathic Hospital opened

The Launceston Homœopathic Hospital was opened by the Premier.

By this stage there were 5 known qualified and registered homœopathic practitioners in Tasmania – 2 in Launceston and 3 in Hobart.

It appears that by this stage the supporters of homœopathy were concentrating their efforts on the successful management and operation of each of the two homœopathic hospitals, rather than meeting together as a whole organisation. The last mention of the Tasmanian Homœopathic Journal was for the August 1901 edition. The last specific mention in Tasmanian newspapers of the Homœopathic Association was in 1902.

 

1903 – Homœopath appointed to key city position

Dr Gerard Henry Smith arrived in Hobart and was selected from three candidates as Health Officer for the City of Hobart. This prominent public position was a coup for the supporters of homœopathy. Although he was eminently suitable for the position because of his previous experience, the Central Board refused to confirm the appointment, which they requested that the City Council cancel. The chief objection was that Dr Smith was a homœopath and that the other doctors in the city would not consult with him because of this, thus endangering the city.

However, Dr Smith had strong supporters on the City Council in the form of Alderman Gould and Alderman Crouch. The Committee voted that they had selected a fully qualified man, that the Central Board had not furnished sufficient reason for refusing to confirm the appointment, and that they should defy the Central Board which had no legal authority to override the choice of local Health Officer.

Therefore, Dr Smith took up his position as Health Officer and worked on such issues as better housing for the poor, and improved drainage and sewerage for the city.  At the fourth annual meeting of the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital Dr Smith was appointed as one of the four honorary medical officers. He left Tasmania in 1907.

In 1904 Dr Benjafield resigned from the hospital. In 1908 he was appointed as Health Officer for the Glenorchy area, a position which he retained until his death in 1917. In 1911 Dr W.G.C. Clark was appointed as Health Officer for the Richmond district. Thus Dr Smith had opened the way for other homœopaths to perform that significant role. Homoeopaths also took positions as ‘Public Vaccinator’, believing that vaccination was an example of the principles of homœopathy.

 

1905 – Desire for more homœopaths in the north

It was reported that there were many residents on the North West Coast who were staunch supporters and users of homœopathy, many with some years of experience in homœopathy, who had always regretted that there was no homœopathic doctor who could reside in that part of Tasmania, or make regular visits. Being isolated and without professional medical support, home prescribing using personal homœopathic medicine chests would have provided for their medical care. The supporters of homœopathy in these areas wished that they could have a homœopath who would make regular visits and thus encourage the formation of committees in all the leading coast towns to meet and discuss matters of homœopathy, and collect funds for the hospital. One such homœopath, Dr John Maffey, provided such services for a short period, but he resigned early the following year and left Tasmania.

 

1907 – American qualifications rejected

After working in Melbourne for two years, American graduate Dr Eben Colman Gould travelled to Hobart where he was appointed as Resident Medical Officer at the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital. As required, he submitted his application to be registered as a medical practitioner in Tasmania. In the meantime he was permitted to practise. However, after waiting nearly a year to be registered, he finally received notice that the Court of Medical Examiners had refused registration. As a result, Dr Gould let it be known that if his registration continued to be refused, he would leave Tasmania. The American Consul and the Hospital Board formed a deputation, meeting with the Premier and Attorney-General to try to prevent unjust discrimination against Dr Gould.

The Consul was offended by the implication that American universities were not to be recognised. He was concerned that the matter be satisfactorily sorted, ‘not only for the sake of Dr Gould himself, but of other American doctors who may receive invitations from the hospitals here to come out and practice, but who, under existing conditions, seem likely, after making long and expensive trips from America, to find that there is an unwritten regulation against their being registered, at least if they are homœopaths’. The suspicion was expressed that the recent decision not to admit holders of foreign degrees was especially designed for the purpose of putting the Homœopathic Hospital out of business.

Dr Gould resigned his position at the Hospital and returned to Melbourne in September 1908. Tasmania altered the Act dealing with the registration of medical practitioners and finally registered Dr Gould. However, it was too late and he did not return to Tasmania.

 

1931 – Hobart Homœopathic Hospital changed hands

In 1931 the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital officially changed hands, to become St John’s Hospital. It was agreed that the new hospital would incorporate the old homoeopathic hospital; therefore the new hospital continued to officially document itself as incorporating the Hobart Homœopathic Hospital up until 1984.

 

1940s – 1950s – The end of an era

In 1946 Dr P.D. Smith of Launceston retired after 48 years’ service to both the homœopathic and broader community in Tasmania. It was now almost impossible to find medically qualified practitioners with suitable homœopathic training to replace Dr Smith. It had always been extremely difficult to staff medical officers in Australian homœopathic hospitals, as there was no local training for homœopathic medical practitioners, and because of the boycotts placed by the British Medical Association (B.M.A.) and later the Australian Medical Association (A.M.A.). The end of the Launceston Homœopathic Hospital came in 1951, when the Anglican Synod of Launceston agreed to take control of the Hospital. On 18 October 1951 the Hospital was officially handed over and renamed St Luke’s Hospital.

 

1950s – to today

However, the practise and use of homœopathy in Tasmania did not die, and continues to this day. When the Australian Homœopathic Association became a national body and the Australian Register of Homœopaths was formed, Tasmanian supporters of homœopathy became members of a nationwide community.

Local members have represented the voice of homœopathy on TV programmes, in market places, in newspapers, on the Internet, through participation in the annual World Homœopathy Awareness Week, and by hosting the Australian Homœopathic Medicine Conference in October, 2014.

 

About the author

Barbara Armstrong

Barbara Armstrong has qualifications in Medical Record Administration; a Graduate Diploma in Data Processing; and a Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Sciences. She has worked in the health field for more than 26 years. Having always been interested in history, originally specialising in medieval maps, over the past 10 years she has become a specialist in the history of homœopathy in Australia. She has created a website which is the definitive source for information about Australia's pioneering homœopaths, chemists, and public figures who were supporters of homœopathy, as well as information about Australia's homœopathic hospitals and dispensaries.

1 Comment

  • Congratulations Barbara.

    A comprehensive timeline, detailing previously unknown facts about the history of homoeopathy in Tasmania … well done !

    Furthermore, accessing Barbara’s website reveals a treasury of information about the early history of homoeopathy throughout Australia, with results of ongoing original research being constantly added.

    Best wishes,
    Peter Torokfalvy
    BSc,GradDipDP,DipHom

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